T H O U G H T / fierce grace
I had formed a real sense of self around being ‘Laura the high achiever’, ‘the goal setter’, ‘the lawyer’. My life was all about achieving more than my peers and I built my sense of identity upon these foundations; this need to constantly achieve. I thrived off the approval of others and the kudos of my career.
During my illnesses, this identity was wiped away. It’s hard to identify as a high achiever when you are bedridden, consumed by darkness and inertia.
I would spend some time off work regaining my strength and would gradually start to feel better. Weeks later I would find myself back in an office of another law firm, working long hours on another high-profile case in my capacity as a freelance lawyer. This, of course, would gradually send me spiralling back to my bed, mentally and emotionally exhausted, drained of life and once again consumed by the chatter of an uncompromising and deeply disturbed voice; the sound of self-hatred and harsh judgment ringing in my ears.
This cycle, this back and forth, from City law firm to the dank, darkness of my bedroom occurred several times until I was so sick, so consumed by my depression, that I couldn’t function at all. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t move and I couldn’t feel anything other than sadness.
It was during this five-month period off work that I realised I was no longer a lawyer. The persona of the ‘high achiever’, ‘go-getter’, ‘City lawyer’ no longer belonged to me. With this realisation came relief and lightness. I started to find enjoyment in my everyday life, in the mundane and in that which I already had. I did not have to constantly feed the ego with one attainment or achievement after the next. I was grateful.
But having spent 28 years feeding the ego, whilst ignoring the Self (the soul at the very core of who I am), it was foolish to think that in this one realisation lay the solution to all of my issues and the abolition of my illness.
No one ever tells you that when you embark on a journey to find meaning in your life, to find your purpose and lasting happiness or just underrated contentment, that you’ll shake the very foundations upon which you have built your life. If you thought that life was tough and unbearable before, then you soon realise that this was just preparing you for what awaits when you begin to question everything you ever thought you were.
This journey is one in which you venture inward and there is a danger that you become preoccupied with the self and who you are now that you are not X, Y or Z and in doing so the ego gradually regains strength. If I am not a lawyer then what am I? I must be something. I am ready for life and I want to throw myself at something but what? I must do something. I must be someone.
After a realisation, an awakening of something deep within, enlightenment (whatever you want to call it) you are aware of the duality of the ego (that which controlled your former self for perhaps most of your life) and the Self who realises that this searching is once again the ego seeking and striving.
Whilst I had disassociated myself with the persona I had carefully cultivated over almost three decades, I had not liberated myself from the values that lie at the root of the persona. Whilst I no longer identified myself as ‘Laura the lawyer’, I still sought financial wealth and security.
Right now, I am at a point in my journey where I have fully dissociated myself from being a lawyer. The thought of returning to a city to work long hours on a commercial case fills me with dread, for I know that to do so would result in me living an inauthentic life. I do not belong there. But that leaves me the dilemma right now of not knowing where I do belong. I cannot seem to shake off the ego’s longing to apply itself, to work towards and to achieve something and in return, it seeks payment and reward.
It is all very well ‘finding yourself’ when removed from our western society, as I did during my time spent in India, but the real work starts when you return home to a life that seems drastically different and yet at the same time unchanged. People must work to provide for themselves and their families. We are told that we should all save for our pensions, we must contribute to the system and we must strive to buy ‘homes’.
Every single day I doubt whether I should have ever embarked on this journey and whether I should return to work, to doing what I know in order to escape this current feeling of uncertainty. This too is the ego talking, for it assumes that I had a choice in all that I have been through in recent years. The truth of the matter is that is that if I were to return to my freelance work I would again fall ill and if I am certain of anything it is that I am never going back to those depths again.
So right now I am trying to hold myself together at a time of great uncertainty. I have no direction or guidance and must rely upon myself to find a way through the darkness that creeps ever closer. I have been liberated from my former self but accepting and making sense of what remains, applying my true self to the world and forging some semblance of a life that works in society is the next challenge along my path.
Inspiration sought from 'The End of Your World: Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment' by Adyashanti
What persona do you identify with? Have you embarked on a similar journey? Share your experiences with me in the comments below or connect by way of email or social media.